SEA Games: Lim fastest, Schooling's happy

On the final night of the swimming programme at this South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in Naypyidaw, Singapore's top male and female swimmers Joseph Schooling and Tao Li tasted defeat for the first time.

Star man Schooling did make it five golds out of six events when he retained his men's 200m butterfly crown, and Amanda Lim also raised a loud cheer in the Singapore camp when she delivered gold in the women's 50m freestyle final.

First off the blocks with a reaction time of 0.62sec at the Wunna Theikdi Aquatics Centre, the 20-year-old powered home in 25.69, lowering her own meet record of 25.77 set in Indonesia two years ago.

Lim also won the event in Laos in 2009.

Her first individual gold in Myanmar was sweet revenge over Thailand's silver medallist Natthanan Junkrajang (25.80), who has proven to be a bogey lady for the Singapore women here.

She beat Lim in the 100m freestyle and she was the main reason the Thais beat the Singapore quartet in the 4x100m freestyle final.

Lim, who holds the national women's 50m freestyle record of 25.38, told The New Paper: "In a way it makes up for the earlier defeats, but I'm also disappointed not to medal in the 100m free.

"It's always easier to win than to win again. It was about who has the stronger mind and who has the faster start because in 50-metre races, there's no room to make up for a deficit."

Schooling, 18, was never threatened in the 200m butterfly, winning in 1min 59.46sec.

In the final swim event of the Games, the Indonesian men led from start to finish to win the 4x100 medley relay in 3:41.65, with Singapore settling for silver in 3:43.62.

Schooling, who also won and set new Games records in the men's 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley, men's 4x200m freestyle relay and men's 4x100m freestyle relay, said: "Five golds, one silver, four meet records, it feels great.

"I know how much doing well at the SEA Games means to the country, and it means a lot to me as well.

"It's a huge relief to complete my campaign with these achievements, because there were more expectations and pressure this time compared to 2011.

"I'm a bit bummed we didn't win the last relay, but this just gives me more incentive to train harder for bigger and better things."

Sergio Lopez, Schooling's coach at Bolles, his former school in Florida, was in Myanmar to support his young charge.

The former Olympic medallist said: "We had two goals - to win as many races and swim best times.

"I expected him to be faster, but he has still done well.

"We will have eight months to work together before he goes to college and we will work on improving his stroke, his shoulders and kicks coordination.

"I think he could be a good medal prospect at the Asian Games next year."

After five days of swimming competition, Singapore collected 11 golds, nine silvers and 10 bronze medals from 32 events.

Looking ahead to the 2015 Games, which Singapore will host, national coach Ian Turner said: "I think it's been an exceptional outing this year, considering there were six fewer events.

"We were never going to repeat the 17-gold performance. We did not have it our own way this time and we are not going to have our own way in 2015.

"We have got to buckle down and work harder for the next SEA Games in Singapore."

davidlee@sph.com.sg


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